Monk Ki business boosts Swans
Swansea manager Garry Monk admits he had to persuade Ki Sung-yueng to buy into his philosophy and stop him leaving the club last summer.
The South Korean returns for the Swans against his former club Sunderland on Saturday after spending the last month leading his country to the runners-up spot at the Asian Cup.
But Ki could just as easily have been playing for visitors at the Liberty Stadium after being deemed surplus to requirements by former Swansea manager Michael Laudrup last season.
Ki joined Sunderland on loan and played a major part in their run to the Capital One Cup final and successful battle to stay in the Barclays Premier League.
Black Cats boss Gus Poyet wanted to make the move permanent, but Monk's persuasive powers paid off and Ki has since signed a new four-year deal at the Welsh club.
"It was important to give Ki the confidence and belief I have in him," Monk said at his pre-match press conference.
"Ki was unsure in the summer what he was going to do or how he felt about things, so I sat down with him.
"We had good discussions with how I saw football, how I saw the club going forward, how I wanted the team to play and Ki bought into that.
"He's been one of our most consistent performers and before he went away he was playing well, and now it's about him producing better football than he was earlier this season."
Monk is also wary of another player who has returned to these shores recently - former England striker Jermain Defoe, who has wasted little time settling in at Sunderland after joining from Major League Soccer side Toronto FC.
Defoe scored his first Sunderland goal in last weekend's 2-0 home victory over Burnley - the Wearsiders' first win in six league attempts.
"He's a fantastic player with a good Premier League pedigree," Monk said.
"He scores goals and always plays on the shoulder of defenders.
"I think he enjoyed his time away but I think he's already spoken how much he missed the Premier League and we have to be wary of him."
Jack Cork could make his Swansea debut in a re-shaped midfield following the former England Under-21 international's arrival from Southampton.
Swansea's win at Southampton last weekend took them to 33 points and within seven of the tally traditionally seen to guarantee safety in the top flight.
But Monk promised Swansea's season would not fall away if that mark was achieved sooner rather than later.
"You have to be realistic and the first point of call is to get to 40 points," Monk said.
"We have a great opportunity to do that earlier than ever before, but we have an important month that starts against Sunderland.
"We want to get those 40 points as quickly as possible and then re-assess our targets, but I will push for more from myself and the players."
Poyet will be without Lee Cattermole and Connor Wickham while Billy Jones, Jack Rodwell, Adam Johnson and Will Buckley are all doubts.
But whichever 11 men take the field, their head coach knows they will face a tough test against a team marshalled by Monk, who celebrated a year in his job on Wednesday.
Poyet said: "He's done well. The biggest advantage is he was there as a player, he knew the way of training from three or four different managers trying to play a system.
"He is not changing it, he is trying to play the same way, which I think is a little bit easier for him. But of course, that doesn't mean that he doesn't need to keep improving and giving certain touches of what he wants or what he doesn't like, so it's been good."